With the ever-increasing costs of living in the UK and no end in sight to the harsh economic times we’ve recently endured, rising energy prices are an unwelcome addition to our day-to-day domestic troubles. Managing your money and sorting out how to pay the bills takes time, and more often than not you’ll always find that there’s a cheaper deal somewhere else right after you’ve signed your latest contract. But why are energy costs increasing year-on-year so dramatically? And what can we do to reduce our bills?

Energy Price Increases

On the 10th October 2013 the UK energy company SSE (comprised of Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro-Electric) solar panelsannounced an 8.2% hike in energy prices for all of its 10 million customers, effective as of 15th November. That’s an increase three times the rate of inflation; more than both the recent increases in food prices and travel costs; hardly fair given the continuously spiralling cost-of-living.

That said, these energy price increases are nothing new. Just last year various energy companies implemented above-inflation rises in how much ordinary UK home-owners would be charged for their gas and electricity bills; in late 2012 British Gas raised prices by 6%; Scottish Power by 7%; and EDF Energy by a whopping 10.8%. Of course, you can always change your tariff or energy provider by comparing price-plans with friends or using one of the many online comparisons sites; but that doesn’t really provide a long-term solution to these soaring energy costs. With no guarantee the government (or future government) can do anything to stop these hikes – and with energy prices continuing to rise as the planet runs out of its natural resources – you might want to look to alternative, green energy solutions instead. So what about installing solar panels?

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Solar Panel Installation

PV (or Photo-Voltaic) solar panels are made from a light-absorbing material (usually silicon or a silicon-based agent), and work by reacting to the sun’s rays and creating an electric field, which then stores the collected energy over a set period of time before it can be re-directed into your main energy system. It means you can save money on your regular energy bills by using this superfluous energy instead – plus there are other ways of getting money back from your investment too.

In April 2010 the previous government set up a FIT (Feed-in-Tariff) initiative, designed to encourage investment in solar panel technology among ordinary home-owners; a tariff that would offer financial rewards for those producing green energy. The current government have attempted to curb the degree of money paid back to those who have taken part in the incentive, but the UK Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of the solar companies that helped to establish the scheme. As a result, the financial reward (direct from government) currently is 14.90 p/kWh if solar panels are installed after 1st July 2013 and before 1st January 2014.

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This will, however, continue to decrease to anything as low as a 10-15% rate of return on all energy produced by your own solar panel installation, so getting it done sooner rather than later is vital to saving a bit of extra cash. Of course, you will also need to make sure you have the right sort of roof for solar panelling in the first place. These PV fittings usually work best on a south or south-east facing property, but generally most roofs can be tilted slightly to make sure they absorb the maximum amount of daylight possible. You will also need to speak to your mortgage lenders and the local council to check that solar panels don’t require planning permission in your area, but once all the finer details are sorted you can start making plans almost straight away!

Solar Panel Installation Cost

But how much do solar panels cost? Well, to help give you an idea of how much this kind of home-improvement investment is going to set you back, we researched various figures and quotes from a number of online, independent organisations whose aim is to help ordinary home-owners manage their money and save energy where they can. According to the following three companies, the average price for a 3kWh solar panel fitting is as follows:

  • U-switch – £6500
  • Which  £7000
  • Energy Saving Trust – £5500 – £9500

Of course, these prices are just estimates; for detailed, accurate information about how much new solar panels will really set you back you should get in touch with a number of different retailers and manufacturers and calculate what proportion of the project your Feed-in-Tariff will really be able to fund. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look around for the best deal possible – because solar energy is still relatively new, there is always the risk that you won’t know if you’re paying more for something that isn’t worth the label their selling. Request guidelines from independent bodies including those listed above, and ask friends and/or relatives who have had solar energy installed before how they went about choosing the right supplier. As long as you are prepared to treat the project as a long-term investment, you and your family will surely see the financial and ecological benefits of solar panel technology well after you’ve made your money back!

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*All prices sourced are accurate as of October 2013.

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